"This behavior and this hatred is taught," Gisele Barreto Fetterman wrote in a tweet about the altercation

By Virginia Chamlee
October 12, 2020 11:18 AM
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The wife of Pennsylvania's lieutenant governor said she was the target this weekend of a racially-motivated verbal assault at her local grocery store. A video she filmed capturing part of the incident has since gone viral.

Gisele Barreto Fetterman posted about the incident on Twitter on Sunday. The two-second clip she shot shows a woman lowering her mask to say, "You're a n-----," into Fetterman's half-opened car window.

"I love love love this country but we are so deeply divided, I ran to the local grocery store and was met by and verbally assaulted by this woman who repeatedly told me I do not belong here," Fetterman tweeted along with the video, which apparently came at the end of the altercation.

She wrote that the woman who had confronted her kept talking to her after she left the store, before she began filming.

"The confrontation continued into the parking lot where I was able to finally capture it after the crying winded down," Fetterman wrote on Twitter. "This behavior and this hatred is taught. If you know her, if she is your neighbor or relative, please, please teach her love instead."

From left: Pennsylvania Lt. Gov. John Fetterman and his wife, Gisele Barreto Fetterman
| Credit: Matt Rourke/AP/Shutterstock

Fetterman, who married Pennsylvania Lt. Gov. John Fetterman in 2008, expanded on the encounter in an interview with The Washington Post.

Gisele said it happened on Sunday afternoon at a grocery store near her home in Braddock, while she was waiting to check out.

“She said, ‘There’s that n-word that Fetterman married. You don’t belong here. No one wants you here. You don’t belong here,’” Gisele told the Post. “The fact that she was so comfortable and bold to just do it to my face with an audience ... that was really scary.”

“I was just kind of frozen in that moment,” Gisele recalled to the Post. “I was shaking. I was so nervous."

She said the woman came up to her when she was in her car about to leave the store.

The woman featured in the video has not yet been identified, but Gisele told the Post that state troopers are now investigating. She said she called her usual trooper escort after the confrontation and sent a photo of the other woman's license plate.

A Brazilian immigrant, Gisele was brought to the U.S. by her mother as a child and was undocumented, according to the Post. She has since become a citizen. She is the co-founder of groups providing clothing and food to those in need.

In a statement on Monday, Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf called the incident Gisele documented "shameful and unacceptable."

"Racism and hate speech are always unacceptable, and unworthy of Pennsylvanians. No Pennsylvanian should ever be made to feel unwelcome in our commonwealth because of their race or ethnicity," Wolf said. "Gisele Fetterman spends much of her time devoted to making our state and world a better place and she — and every Pennsylvanian — deserves our respect, not the hatred too often displayed by people who seek only to further divide this country at a time when unity is so desperately needed."

Racially-motivated verbal (and physical) assaults — particularly those against Latinos — have been on the rise in recent years, according to data from the FBI.

In 2019, the bureau noted that violence against Latinos had reached a 16-year high the previous year.

Those numbers run parallel to other trends, particularly a rise in the number of those who view immigration as a top concern in the United States. Historically, as immigration has replaced terrorism as a point of concern among Americans, attacks against Latinos have begun to outpace attacks against Arab-Americans.

President Donald Trump, who was elected on a sweeping anti-immigration platform, has been accused of fueling anti-Latino sentiment in the years since being elected.

Trump infamously kicked off his campaign with a speech in which he referred to Mexicans as drug dealers, criminals and rapists. He has doubled down on that rhetoric since, calling undocumented immigrants "animals" in 2018.

Elsewhere he has insisted he doesn't have "a Racist bone in my body!"